I’ve always been late to the party. If ever proof were needed read this: I only found out what a Mooncup was earlier this month. I know. Don’t ask. But now that I have, I keep hearing about them, although one of the joys of being post-40 is I don’t feel the need to master a new type of sanitary product at this stage of my life. Me and the Mooncup have finally met but we’re never destined to get better acquainted.
However, on the subject of moons and lateness, I’ve also been behind the curve with Diane Chandler’s novel Moondance which came out in November last year. The author kindly sent me a copy and asked whether I might read and review it. I didn’t get a chance before I left for Argentina to climb Aconcagua so I started it when I got back but have been so busy recently that I have had to ration myself to one chapter a day.
Moondance is a novel about a couple who desperately want a baby and it could only be written by a woman who has been through IVF – although Chandler is quick to point out that it’s not her own story. But no one could write so pellucidly about the inside of a fertility clinic toilet without having been in one. In fact, what amazed me is that so much of the action had happened to me. It was as if the author was inside my head and, as I read on, I felt this over and over again. It also reminded me how the enduring silence and stigma around infertility is crazy, given that millions of people have been through it and largely feel the same.
I can see why Chandler might be quick to dissociate her own life from her story because the central female character – Cat – is not a wholly sympathetic figure and there is an inference in the novel that her struggle to conceive is, in part, her own fault because she’s left motherhood too late. I worry about all the women who have to carry this burden and I felt it again on Friday night when I went to see Satinder Chohan’s play – Made in India. Chohan appeared at Fertility Fest – the arts festival about the science of making babies which I founded last year – and the play explores the complex and controversial issue of commercial surrogacy in India. And although Chohan avoids drawing conclusions, the western character, Eva, who travels to India to try and conceive is drawn as a slightly distasteful figure who, like Cat, has also left conception dangerously late. I truly hope that people don’t judge these women for the situation they find themselves in because I feel that both characters have been disadvantaged by the structures that society has set for them and the limited information about their fertility that they’ve been given.
Why? Well, I’d also highly recommend you watch Professor Geeta Nargund – Founder and Medical Director of Create Fertility – giving a TED talk on Fertility Education which was published online on International Women’s Day. In it, she brilliantly explains what has been omitted from most biology lessons in school and argues passionately that with better fertility education we might actually be able to reverse the growing numbers of people needing IVF.
So when I was writing my blog today, thinking about Cat and Eva and Geeta, I also thought of all the young women sitting in university union bars discussing the relative pros and cons of the Mooncup (because now I know of its existence I bet they are). And I wished we could give them all Moondance and Made In India and Professor Nargund’s TED talk so they could really have their say.